Gautrain’s R1.6bn subsidy
Taxpayers cough up as passenger numbers show marked decline due to several factors
GAUTENG’S provincial taxpayers are forking out a whopping R100 million a month, or almost R1.6 billion a year, to subsidise the running of the Gautrain as the number of passengers has been declining over the past two years.
The provincial grant, called the patronage guarantee, means the province will subsidise the difference between the income from the passenger fees and what is actually spent. This will help cover operating, maintenance and the private sector portion of the capital costs until the number of passengers is sufficient to meet the operating costs.
This means that the number of passengers needs to increase to reduce the patronage guarantee.
This amount has been raised from R821m in 2013, to R1.099bn in 2015 to now almost R1.6bn for the 2017/18 financial year.
In the 2017/18 annual report, Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) chief executive Jack van der Merwe said: “The external environment remained volatile and the low rates of economic growth in the metropolitan areas served by the Gautrain impacted negatively on growth in passenger trips.
“This slow rate of growth and other factors turned steady historical growth in Gautrain passenger trips from June 2010 into a net decline for both train and passenger trips in the 2017/18 financial year.
Compared with the previous financial year, train passenger trips declined by 3.8% and bus passenger trips declined by 6.3%.
This was despite the fact that targets of availability and punctuality were met at an average availability of 99.5% and an average punctuality of 98.6% for all trips scheduled for the financial year.
“The ongoing threat of violence between e-hailing taxi services and metered taxi drivers outside or near Gautrain stations continued and resulted in deterring potential passengers from transferring between train and taxi modes.
This is a challenge that will need a co-ordinated response from all spheres of government,” he said.
Another reason for dwindling passenger numbers is congestion at peak hours on the trains.
However, in a catch-22 situation, the GMA put out tenders last year for an additional 48 coaches, but all three shortlisted bidders failed.
This was announced in December last year, so the process has to start all over again and could take many months, which means that the new rolling stock intended to ease congestion could take years to materialise.
GMA spokesperson Tlago Ramalepa conceded that the growth in passenger trips on the Gautrain had slowed considerably after several years of higher-than-expected growth.
She reiterated that one of the reasons for the slowdown in passenger numbers was the lack of capacity on trains in the peak morning and afternoon periods, when most commuters travel to and from work.
“Prior to commencing with the procurement of the Gautrain Project, the Gauteng provincial government prepared a comprehensive feasibility study and financial model. At that time, it was clear that, like the vast majority of passenger rail projects around the world, the Gautrain would require government financial support,” she said.
This support was defined in two parts – the capital contribution that the province would have to make in the development period, and the patronage guarantee that the province would have to make during the operating period.
GMA’s response to managing the patronage guarantee, said Ramalepa, was to issue a variation notice to the concessionaire, Bombela, to procure more rolling stock and thereby increase train capacity.
“The process of procuring additional rolling stock, which was started in 2016, resulted in no bid being awarded towards the end of 2018. In terms of confidentiality undertakings in the bidding process, the GMA is not in a position to disclose the reasons for the assessment of non-compliance for bidders.”
Bidding will start again in the next few weeks, she added.
Since the start of operations in 2010, growth in train use increased to a peak of 1400190 passengers per month in May 2017. Growth in bus use increased to 458 974 passengers per month during the same month. ALTHOUGH there have been several drownings at Cape Town beaches over the festive season, there have been no reports of drownings at public swimming pools.
Mayco member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien said thousands of people flocked to the 19 municipal pools. He said lifeguards stationed at the facilities ensured there were no drownings.
“We opened only 19 of the 35 facilities in our commitment to continued water-saving practices, and they will remain open until the end of January.
“A few of our pools have their own water resources and this has bolstered our efforts to save our precious water supply,” Badroodien said.
The pools remained open for longer on the more popular and hotter days of the festive season.
Badroodien applauded the lifeguards for their dedication and commitment.
In one incident a pool lifeguard rushed to the assistance of a man who was in trouble on a beach nearby.
Cameron Vannithing was on duty at the Strand indoor swimming pool when he heard someone screaming that someone was in trouble on the beach.
“This young man didn’t think twice about going into the water to pull out the victim who had nearly drowned.
“Back on land, Cameron performed CPR and when paramedics arrived, he kept up the chest compressions all the way to the hospital, where doctors managed to find a pulse.” |
GMA spokesperson Tlago Ramalepa conceded that the growth in passenger trips on the Gautrain had slowed considerably after several years of higher-than-expected growth |